Nicaragua’s government has committed serious and systematic violations which amount to crimes against humanity, a United Nations-appointed team of human rights experts has said, calling for international sanctions against the government.
The three-person body said on Thursday that the government has committed, and continues to commit, acts of torture, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detention since 2018.
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It names President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is his wife, as participants in the violations and calls for international legal action and sanctions against those involved.
“The objective (of the government) is to eliminate by different means any opposing or dissenting voices in the country,” Jan Simon, chair of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, told journalists at a briefing to present the findings in Geneva, Switzerland, saying the government was “weaponising the functions of the state against the population”.
“This has resulted in the Nicaraguan population living in fear,” he said.
The report also condemned Ortega’s government for stripping 222 opponents of their nationality, after they were loaded on board a plane and flown to the United States last month.
Nicaragua’s diplomatic mission in Geneva did not reply to a request for comment on the report’s findings.
The group of experts said it sent 12 letters to the government since it began working a year ago as well as the final report but never received a response.
Ortega, now aged 77, first came to power as a leader of the left-wing Sandinista movement that toppled the Somoza dictatorship in a 1970s revolution.
He was in and out of office over the years but took power again in 2007 and has ruled since.
Human rights groups and the political opposition have long accused his government of severely repressing civic freedoms and his opponents to win elections and keep his grip on the country.
Security forces killed more than 300 people in anti-government protests in 2018.
Asked about the scale of the abuses, the experts said they had documented more than 100 cases of executions, hundreds of cases of torture and arbitrary detention, and thousands of cases of political persecution.
Simon said the crisis in Nicaragua risks getting worse and warned of a “humanitarian crisis” ahead.
“We are very concerned with the present situation,” he said.
“It is our sincere hope that this report can contribute to preventing the further spiralling of systemic violations and abuses.”